School board wrestles over adult education


Imagine a minute Lewistown losing its Adult Education Center. The Center is where people from a six-county area come to work on getting a high school equivalency diploma, formerly known as a GED. People who want to get a high school equivalency diploma have to pay the cost of taking the test, but currently do not pay for the cost of preparing for the test. Questions about the future funding of the program arose during Monday evening’s three-hour Lewistown School Board meeting. 

The Board also heard several other reports, approved several requests and dealt with several general “bookkeeping” issues during the meeting.  

Adult Education Director Diane Oldenburg, along with Paula Walker, who is the instructor for the Adult Learning Center, reported to the Board about a need for a change in the Center. A new Federal Law, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, goes into effect on July 1. This law will require some vast changes to the Adult Learning Center. 

According to Oldenburg, the Center, which is located at the Central Montana Education Center on Airport Report, served a total of 98 students this year. Any person who is 16 years of age or older and is currently not attending school is eligible to attend the Adult Learning Center. While many people enroll to work on getting a high school equivalency diploma, the center can also help people brush up on skills to be able to go to college or get a job. 

“None of the 98 students who we worked with this year would have qualified for the program under the guidelines of the new WIOA,” Oldenburg told the Board on Monday. “We really don’t think working under the guidelines of this new law is in the best interest of our students.”

Part of the funding for the Learning Center comes from an Adult Basic and Literacy Education grant. The Center must apply for the grant anually through the Office of Public Instruction, but in order to qualify for the ABLE grant, the guidelines for the WIOA must be followed.

Oldenburg told the Board she thought they had three options: 1) apply for the grant; 2) don’t apply for the grant but run a permissive levy to cover what the grant paid for; or 3) don’t apply for the grant and close the Adult Learning Center.

Later in the Board meeting and after a great deal of discussion, the board voted down the motion to apply for the Montana ABLE grant for the 2016-2017 school year. The Board did not make a decision on how to make up the monies they normally get from the grant, but will be looking into other sources of revenue for the Learning Center.


Principal Lewis makes request to Board about start of school for Garfield students

In another presentation to the Board, K-1 Principal Matt Lewis proposed the scheduling of goal-setting meetings with parents of kindergarten and first-grade students on the first two days of school this fall. Those two days are Aug. 25 and 26.

“The primary purpose of the goal meetings is to foster a positive relationship between the parents of our students and their teachers,” said Lewis, about the request. “One of the questions we will be asking the students and their parents is ‘What are your hopes and dreams?’ Hopefully this will lead to a discussion of what parents’ expectations are for school and make them more comfortable volunteering in the classroom.” 

Later in the meeting, the Board unanimously approved Lewis’s request to use the first two days of school at Garfield Elementary for goal-setting meetings with parents and students.


Barber provides Board with update on summer projects

Maintenance Director Randy Barber presented to the Board an update on projects that are currently underway in the District. His report included projects being done by the maintenance department and ones being accomplished by outside contractors. A rundown for each building in the district was included in Barber’s report. 

One of the projects is the moving of classrooms between Highland Park and Garfield Elementary Schools due to the new grade structure. Barber reported the process is going well.

Barber also included in his report a priority list for the district infrastructure. The top priority is window replacement at the junior high, with roof repairs at the high school next of the priority list. Barber had 10 projects that will need to be done over the next few years.


Other business

• Scott Solberg of Lewistown Insurance provided two quotes from EMC insurance of Bismarck, N.D. and Montana Schools Group Insurance Authority of Helena for property and liability insurance for the 2016-2017 school year. The school district has been with EMC for approximately 30 years, but the Board voted to go with MSGIA due to the fact the premium for the year is approximately $3,500 less for the same or better coverage.

School Superintendent Jason Butcher said the school district’s workman’s compensation program is currently run by MSGIA, and he felt the company does a very good job with it. 

• The Board approved two requests to extend bus routes from adjoining school districts into the Lewistown School District. 

• The Board approved an agreement between the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch and the school district for YBGR to provide Comprehensive School and Community Treatment Services. 

• The Board approved several changes to Student Handbooks for the 2016-2017 school year. 

• The Board approved a Notice of Resolution to Sell/Dispose of Surplus Property. 

• The Board approved the second and final reading of Board Policy #5321 – Conditions for Use of Leave. The change in Board Policy dealt with how payment would be made for unused sick leave when a classified employee is terminated. The Board also approved the second and final reading of Board Policy #7534, which deals with electronic signatures. 

• The Board approved additions to the substitute bus driver list for Floyd Carter and Sandy Mikeson. 

• In the personnel report, the Board approved the letters of resignation of Tara Murnion, as a special education teacher at Highland Park, and Paul Tucek, as a mechanic at the bus barn. In addition, the Board approved the hiring of Jenna Wise as custodian at Fergus High School. 



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